Stop Conflating Remote Work with Future of Work

Saujin Yi
4 min readJun 9, 2020

Future of work is so much more — how I would categorize the industry

Photo credit: Ryoji Iwata (Unsplash)

Recently, an investor published an article that mapped the startup ecosystem in the “Future of Work.” It was comprehensive and well written, but in focusing only on the remote aspect, it missed the point of what Future of Work really is. Limiting the conversation about the Future of Work to just remote work hinders us from being able to fully realize the possibilities and reap all the benefits of its evolution. Remote work is only a sliver of the real Future of Work. At its apex, the Future of Work is where the work economy unbundles itself from the traditional corporate construct and everyone essentially moves back to being an entrepreneur.

The Problem Set: Huge Opportunities in Future of Work

More and more, modern companies are using a non-permanent workforce of professional service vendors, contractors, freelancers, etc. These people represent talent that can be plugged into companies without the traditional constraints such as physical location and tenure. I call this group the “liquid workforce.”

For modern companies that want to utilize the best available talent in the smartest and most cost effective way, the liquid workforce is a necessary addition to full-time employees. This will only be done, however, if tapping into the liquid workforce is as smooth and easy as it currently is recruiting and working with their full-time employees. It boils down to replacing the three original functions of a corporation — helping companies find, contract, and manage their resources in the most efficient manner — outside the confines of a traditional corporation. This is the hirer-side opportunity (and one that I’m working on).

Then, there are barriers for the liquid workers themselves. For example, let’s take a former full-time employee who goes off to establish her own consulting business. She can still be hired by her former company for her services, but she now has far more control and flexibility (rate, hours, duration, specific services, other clients). Unfortunately, starting and running a business can also be a confusing, isolating, and uncertain endeavor. Not only is she now responsible for all of the administrative aspects of working, but because she is a “self corporation,” she no longer has access to the tangible and intangible benefits of working in a traditional corporation, such as insurance, disability, training, human connection, and government interface. So, the worker-side opportunity is one that 1) helps workers run their businesses; and 2) replaces all three groups of traditional “benefits” (illustrated below) that would normally be offered through a corporation:

This traditional corporate “benefits” framework was created with my friends Jason Cavnar and Shelby Clark over 6 years ago.

The Solution Set: Future of Work Categories

Based on the opportunities discussed above, there are five main categories (illustrated below) of solutions in the Future of Work. These are all opportunities that address the barriers that stand in the way of fully integrating to the liquid workforce economy and evolving into the true Future of Work.

  1. Find: Solutions that help hirers and liquid workers find each other and connect
  2. Contract: Solutions that help hirers and liquid workers contract for work to be done
  3. Manage: Solutions that help hirers and liquid workers work with each other efficiently
  4. Establish: Solutions that help liquid workers to establish and run their businesses (legal, finance, admin, ops support, tax, etc.)
  5. Benefits: Solutions that give liquid workers benefits that employees get from corporations, specifically —

a) Traditional benefits: Insurance, 401k, credit, etc.

b) Human connection: training, mentorships, community

c) Government related: Solutions that shape laws and interface with government

Most remote work startups are great examples of solutions that fall into the “manage” category.

Which companies are working on these categories? I know some, but I am far from being able to compile a complete list. If you know of any companies, please send along their information, and at some point, I will publish the industry landscape of the players as I see it.

Where I Started and Where I am Going

As for me, my starting point is Liquid, a streamlined, all-in-one liquid workforce management system that helps companies hire more liquid workers. In other words, I’m starting in Category 2 (“Contract”), where hirers can contract and pay their liquid workers in the most simple, compliance-proper, and error-free way.

As most founders know, in order to start and build a company, you are forced by lack of resources to narrow your scope. You start off with a huge problem you want to solve, but the immediate goal is to find the smallest wedge to start and fit those early, enthusiastic customers who will pay you.

My goal is to build Liquid into the operating system that holds this new economy together. Remote work is an important part of the Future of Work, but it is just a first step towards the full vision of a more agile, software-driven, human-optimized, and inclusive Future of Work where everyone can be their own work entrepreneur.

About Liquid

At Liquid, we reimagine traditional finance and HR software solutions for the liquid workforce. We provide an all-in-one platform that allow modern companies to streamline the way they onboard, manage, and pay their professional service vendors, contractors, and freelancers. We are @ Twitter | Facebook | Email.

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Saujin Yi

Cool nerd. @poweredbyliquid, @flexteamco, @79studiosllc. Talking #futureofwork, #newplayingfield, #worklifefit. ❤️ TV, Lakers, Dodgers. I am #justfobulous.